Yanks seeking 'spark' to jolt bats back to life

August 17th, 2022

NEW YORK -- The scoreboard read Rays 3, Yankees 1. In reality, it felt more like 13-1.

If the Yankees were looking for a silver lining, there’s this: at least they weren’t shut out for a third straight day.

Tampa Bay managed just one hit after the first inning, but the three runs the Rays scored in the opening frame Tuesday at Yankee Stadium were more than enough to hand the Yankees another loss, New York’s 11th defeat in its past 13 games.

“We're all frustrated, but you can't let the frustration get in your way of preparing and getting ready to go every night,” manager Aaron Boone said. “We’ve got a few guys that are in a rut. We’ve got to prepare and get ready and fight our way out of it. It's part of it. It's no fun when you're going through it, but that's where we are right now.”

Since July 9, the Yankees are 11-22, their .333 winning percentage during that stretch coming in as the third lowest in the Majors in front of only the Tigers and Nationals.

The Yankees led the American League East by 15 games at the time, but Tuesday’s loss pulled the Rays within nine games of first place -- the closest the division race has been since June 15.

“No one in here is happy about it,” Aaron Judge said. “Having a little bit of a cushion helps, but that cushion can dwindle quick, so we’ve got to stay on top of it.”

“Welcome to Major League Baseball and playing in the pennant race,” Boone said. “There’s pressure with it.”

Randy Arozarena’s three-run home run against Nestor Cortes in the first inning gave the Rays a quick lead, then Jeffrey Springs and four Tampa Bay relievers did the rest. The Yankees had just four hits all night, though they couldn’t manage two in the same inning. They went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position, the lone run coming in the fifth when Andrew Benintendi tripled and scored on Miguel Andújar’s RBI grounder that Yandy Díaz booted for an error.

For those keeping score at home, the Yankees have a total of one run over their past 27 innings, dropping another divisional series in the process.

“You’re surprised based on the type of guys we have and the type of guys filling those roles while some of our big bats are out,” said Judge, referring to the absence of Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu and Matt Carpenter. “We just haven't been able to get that big hit with guys on base. We can't mope about it; we’ve got to go out there and score.”

Having opened the season 10-0-2 in series against AL East foes with just four series losses prior to the All-Star break, the Yankees have now lost five consecutive series and seven of nine since the break.

“It's better to have this happen now in August than in the first week of playoffs or near the end of the year when you're getting into playoffs, kind of getting punched in the mouth a little bit,” Judge said. “Have it happen now, learn to respond to getting hit in the face a couple times; it’s going to be good for us. You can’t have the good without the bad, so I think it's good for everybody in this room to go through this stretch, kind of look themselves in the mirror and say, ‘Hey, what do I need to do to get better?’ so we can kind of get out of this rut.”

Jose Trevino agreed with his teammate, noting that “a little adversity never hurt nobody.” The results over the past six weeks would certainly qualify as a form of adversity, but the team’s stellar play over the first three-plus months has left it in a position to absorb the pain without watching the season spiral.

“This team is special; everybody's been saying it from the beginning,” Trevino said. “We haven't lost that.”

For the past two nights, the word being thrown around most inside the clubhouse has been “spark” -- as in the thing the offense has been desperately searching for in an attempt to break out of this skid.

That spark might come in the form of outfielder Estevan Florial, who is reportedly set to join the team for Wednesday’s game. Florial, the Yankees’ No. 15 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, could be just one of multiple moves made Wednesday, Boone suggested. Another is No. 14-ranked prospect Oswaldo Cabrera, who posted an Instagram story to say he was getting called up. The club has not confirmed the news.

“He’s a special talent; the time I got a chance to play with him, seeing him in Spring Training, he’s a guy that always wants to learn and is a hard worker,” Judge said of Florial. “He does little things to help his team, so if that's true that he's coming up here, he’ll definitely help us out.”